Thornton dominates opening night of Race For Hope 71

Ricky Thornton Jr. raced to the IMCA.TV Race For Hope 71 A-main qualifier win Thursday at Batesville Motor Speedway. Thornton was the winner of the inaugural Race for Hope event for IMCA Modifieds. (Photo by Mike Spieker)

By Mike Spieker

BATESVILLE, Ark. (Sept. 26) – After having the first two scheduled nights postponed due to rain, the third annual IMCA.TV Race For Hope 71 got underway Thursday night at Batesville Motor Speedway. Ninety-five of the best IMCA Modified drivers from across the country were checked in for action at the high-banked three-eighths mile oval. 

Inaugural Race For Hope 71 champion Ricky Thornton Jr. of Adel, Iowa, by way of Chandler, Ariz., cruised to the 30-lap qualifying A-main feature win. Thornton started on the inside of row two and quickly moved by front row starters D.J. Shannon of Merced, Calif. and Curtis Cook of Conway, Ark. 

Once out front, Thornton Jr. distanced himself from the rest of the field. 

“The car was really good. We were able to get into the lead on the first or second lap, then I just kind of rolled around the bottom,” said Thornton. “I looked at the track right before our feature and de­cided to make a few changes. I think that really helped us a bunch. We should be sitting on the front row for Saturday night, which I think will help us a lot.” 

Thornton will indeed line up in the middle lane of the front row of Saturday’s 30-car, three-wide championship main event. 

Perhaps the best battle on the track midway through the feature was the fight for second between Da­vid Stremme of Mooresville, N.C. and Zane DeVilbiss of Farmington, N.M. Stremme, the 2003 NASCAR Busch Series rookie of the year, and DeVilbiss, a two-time IMCA Modified national cham­pion, raced hard for the runner-up spot for several consecutive laps. Both drivers fought for the bottom groove around the fast and tacky racing surface but ninth-place starter Stremme, was able to hold off DeVilbiss, who was charging his way forward from 13th. 

Cook and Tanner Black of Otis, Kan. rounded out the top five at the checkers. 

Hunter Marriott of Brookfield, Mo. won the B-main. Local favorite Jeff Taylor of Cave City, Ark., drove from 15th to finish second. 

Rusty Jeffrey of Batesville picked up the C-main win. 

The IMCA.TV Race For Hope 71 continues Friday night at Batesville Motor Speedway with racing starting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday’s qualifying program, which was postponed due to rain, will be made up on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. On Saturday at 7:30 p.m., the championship event kicks off, featuring the 71-lap, $15,000 to win main event. 


“A” Feature (30 laps) – 1. Ricky Thornton Jr.; 2. David Stremme; 3. Zane DeVilbiss; 4. Curtis Cook; 5. Tanner Black; 6. Jake O’Neil; 7. Casey Arneson; 8. Wendell Wallace; 9. Kellen Chad­wick; 10. D.J. Shannon; 11. Drew Armstrong; 12. Jared Landers; 13. Terry Phillips; 14. Brandon Smith; 15. Tyler Townsend; 16. Randy Foote; 17. Cody Laney; 18. Tyler Madigan; 19. Tripp Gay­lord; 20. Chad Andersen; 21. Brandon Spanjer; 22. Toby Herring; 23. Chris Carter; 24. Peyton Taylor; 25. Jason Hughes; 26. Tyler Stevens; 27. Jordan Grabouski; 28. Ken Schrader; 29. Richie Tosh; 30. Kyle Strickler.

“B” Feature (15 laps) – 1. Hunter Marriott; 2. Jeff Taylor; 3. Carl Murphy; 4. Ethan Dotson; 5. Jack Sullivan; 6. Ashton Wilkey; 7. Brandon Walsh; 8. Travis Mosley; 9. Dennis Schoenfeld; 10. Eddie Belec; 11. Chris Morris; 12. Chad Clancy; 13. Jason Beaulieu; 14. Joey Gee; 15. John Han­sen; 16. Clay Norris; 17. Rob Hughes; 18. Mikey Bell; 19. Jason Ingalls; 20. Neal Flowers; 21. John Waugh; 22. Jesse Dennis; 23. Randy Weaver; 24. Chris Elliott; 25. Jeremy Tharp; 26. Kody Scholpp; 27. Zack Vanderbeek. 

“C” Feature (15 Laps) – 1. Rusty Jeffrey; 2. Shawn Walsh; 3. Keith Hammett; 4. Christy Barnett; 5. Kris Lloyd; 6. Jeff Mathews; 7. R.C. Whitwell; 8. Kody Johnson; 9. Steven Glenn; 10. Will Poston; 11. Madison Holloway; 12. Chad Mallet; 13. Alan Brown; 14. Tanner Barnhart; 15. Ryan Moore; 16. Heath Grizzle; 17. Joey Burch; 18. David Hess; 19. Justin Galbreath; 20. Shane Kel­ley; 21. Jacob Poel; 22. Craig Garner; 23. Brint Hartwick; 24. Chance Allen; 25. Keith Lawson; 26. James Newton; 27. John Taylor; 28. Cody Tidwell; 29. Brad Smith; 30. Jerry Harris; 31. Miles Keeney.